The Stress of Her Regard
by Tim Powers
Published: 2008 (First edition: 1994)
Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and eBooks
Michael Crawford is forced to flee when discovers his bride brutally murdered in their wedding bed. Yet it is not the revengeful townspeople he fears but the deadly embrace of the malignant spirit that is claiming him as her bridegroom.
Crawford will not travel alone; soon he is aided by his fellow victims, the greatest poets of his day—Byron, Keats, and Shelley. Together they embark upon a desperate journey, crisscrossing Europe and battling the vampiric fiend who seeks her ultimate pleasure in their ravaged bodies and imperiled souls.
Telling a secret history of passion and terror, Tim Powers (The Anubis Gates, Declare, Three Days to Never) masterfully recasts the tragic lives of the Romantics into a uniquely frightening tale. Back in print for the first time since 1994, this newly revised edition of The Stress of Her Regard will thrill both Powers fans and newcomers to this gripping Gothic tour de force.
“Good serious fantasy doesn’t come much better than The Stress of Her Regard.”
“Strewn with literary personages and allusions, the book is entertaining on several levels….”
“Powers’s framing of a vast, mysterious conspiracy, with ancient supernatural powers, hidden riddles, and secret societies, rivals anything written by Umberto Eco….”
“Intricately laced plots, theories of magick advanced and practical, and strange-but-true historical incidents.”
—Green Man Review
“…well-written and overflowing with imagination….”
“Doing what Powers does best, by interspersing a dozen plot lines and characters with a bucket-load of paranormal and tying them up perfectly, he has conjured a tale that could be taken from the history books and taught as fact, and no one would even bother to challenge it. The unfortunate truth is that it’s not real, and that’s what it makes it all the more amazing.”
Tim Powers has been compared to Michael Crichton, Neal Stephenson, and Clive Barker and was lauded by Kirkus as “the reigning king of adult historical fantasy.” His novel Declare, a supernatural secret history of post-WWII espionage, won the 2001 World Fantasy and the International Horror Guild awards. He is the two-time recipient of the Philip K. Dick Award for The Anubis Gates and Dinner at Deviant’s Palace and a three-time Locus Award winner for Last Call, Expiration Date, and Earthquake Weather. His latest novel, Hide Me Among the Graves, is a sequel to his classic supernatural thriller, The Stress of Her Regard. Powers has taught at the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop and has co-taught the Writers of the Future Workshop with Algis Budrys.
Praise for Tim Powers
“Tim Powers is a brilliant writer.”
“Powers orchestrates reality and fantasy so artfully that the reader is not allowed a moment’s doubt.”
—The New Yorker
“Powers writes action and adventure that Indiana Jones could only dream of. And, just when it threatens to get out of hand, there’s a dash of humor and irony that keeps you reading for the joy of it.”
“No one writing today fuses history with fantasy as shrewdly—or as unpredictably—as Tim Powers.”
—Barnes & Noble Review
“…a reigning master of adult contemporary fantasy.”
“Powers has already proved that he is a master of what he terms ‘doing card tricks in the dark,’ referring to the incredible amount of historical, biographical, and practical research that goes into his works.”
“Powers plots like a demon.”
—Village Voice Literary Supplement
“…the reigning king of adult historical fantasy…”
“Tim Powers is a genius.”
Praise for Strange Itineraries
“The nine eccentric, label-defying selections (three written with James P. Blaylock) in Powers’s outstanding first story collection offer the same literary pleasures as this World Fantasy Award winner’s novels (Declare, etc.). The eerily atmospheric “Pat Moore,” in which numerous Pat Moores collide (some male, some female, some living, some ghosts), is far from your conventional ghost story. “Through and Through” is a brilliant study of a disillusioned priest and his penitents within the confessional. The reader hopes that Bernard Wilkins of “The Better Boy” can keep the worms away from his prize tomato plant, that he can preserve his beloved “inventor pants” and, finally, just stay alive. In “Night Moves,” perhaps the volume’s finest entry, memories and dreams pervade the hero’s life, with a colorful subsidiary cast. These are subtle, suggestive tales for the connoisseur of imaginative fiction.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“During a 25-year career that includes several highly praised novels and many awards, Powers has earned a reputation as a reigning master of adult contemporary fantasy. In the first collection of his shorter stories, which includes three collaborations with fellow fantasist James Blaylock, Powers displays his trademark predilection for quirky modern ghost stories and unsettling incursions of oddness into everyday life…. Whether the subject is disillusioned priests or vengeful spirits, Powers is always ready with a surprise around the next narrative corner. A delight for fans and nonfans alike.”
Praise for The Bible Repairman and Other Stories
“Powers knows the ways we get haunted—by ambition, loss, greed, and heartbreak—and you finish reading this handful of beautifully crafted tales wishing he’d tell us more.”
“Most fantasy authors aim at persuading you of the reality of their invented worlds. Mr. Powers makes you doubt the reality of your own. Are there still sin-eaters and ghost-talkers quietly pursuing their trade in tenements and behind weed-infested yards, with regular tariffs and specializations? If there are, what do they know that you don’t? That’s what creates a true frisson.”
—Wall Street Journal
“Tim Powers’s first collection of short fiction in over half a decade, The Bible Repairman and Other Stories is a potent six-story collection that plays effortlessly with many of the author’s favorite themes.”
— Green Man Review
“Powers specializes in hidden histories, and all of these stories present a very real exterior and another world inside its cracks.”
“Powers’s first new collection since 2005 assembles five stories and a novella, where he exhibits his extraordinary talent as a fantasist and his uncommon imaginative power.”
“Superb…. Here, in potent, distilled form, you will find Powers’s trademarked secret histories, heroically damaged (or damagedly heroic) losers, creepy supernatural phenomena, and macabre humor.”
—Barnes & Noble Review
Visit the Tim Powers website.
—Bring with you also … a new Sword cane …
(my last tumbled into this lake—)
to John Cam Hobhouse, 23 June 1816
Until the squall struck, Lake Leman was so still that the two men talking in the bow of the open sailboat could safely set their wine glasses on the thwarts.
The boat’s wake stood like a ripple in glass on either side; it stretched to port far out across the lake, and on the starboard side slowly swept along the shore, and seemed in the late afternoon glare to extend right up the green foothills to move like a mirage across the craggy, snow-fretted face of the Dent d’Oche.
A servant was slumped on one of the seats reading a book, and the sailors had not had to correct their course for several minutes and appeared to be dozing, and when the two travellers’ conversation flagged, the breeze from shore brought the faint wind-chime melody of distant cowbells.
The man in the crook of the bow was staring ahead toward the east shore of the lake. Though he was only twenty-eight, his curly dark red hair was already shot with gray, and the pale skin around his eyes and mouth was scored with creases of ironic humor.
“That castle over there is Chillon,” he remarked to his younger companion,“where the Dukes of Savoy kept political prisoners in dungeons below the water level. Imagine climbing up to peer out of some barred window at all this.” He waved around at the remote white vastnesses of the Alps.
His friend pushed the fingers of one skinny hand through his thatch of fineblond hair and peered ahead. “It’s on a sort of peninsula, isn’t it? Mostly out in the lake? I imagine they’d be glad of all the surrounding water.”
Lord Byron stared at Percy Shelley, once again not sure what the young man meant. He had met him here in Switzerland less than a month ago and, though they had much in common, he didn’t feel that he knew him.
Both of them were voluntarily in exile from England. Byron had recently fled bankruptcy and a failed marriage and, though it was less well known, the scandal of having fathered a child by his half sister; four years earlier, with the publication of the long, largely autobiographical poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, he had become the nation’s most celebrated poet—but the society that had lionized him then reviled him now, and English tourists took delight in pointing him out when they caught glimpses of him on the streets, and the women frequently threw theatrical faints.
Shelley was far less famous, though his offenses against propriety sometimes appalled even Byron. Only twenty-four, he had already been expelled from Oxford for having written a pamphlet advocating atheism, had been disowned by his wealthy father, and had deserted his wife and two children in order to run away with the daughter of the radical London philosopher William Godwin. Godwin had not been pleased to see his daughter putting into all-too-real action his abstract arguments in favor of free love.
Byron was doubting that Shelley would really be “glad of the surrounding water.” The stone walls had to be leaky, and God knew what kinds of damp rot a man would be subject to in such a place. Was it naïveté that made Shelley say such things, or was it some spiritual, unworldly quality, such as made saints devote their lives to sitting on pillars in deserts?
And were his condemnations of religion and marriage sincere, or were they a coward’s devices to have his own way and not acknowledge blame? He certainly didn’t give much of an impression of courage.
Four nights ago Shelley and the two girls he was travelling with had visited Byron, and rainy weather had kept the party indoors. Byron was renting the Villa Diodati, a columned, vineyard-surrounded house in which Milton had been a guest two centuries earlier; and though the place seemed spacious when warm weather let guests explore the terraced gardens or lean on the railing of the wide veranda overlooking the lake, on that night an Alpine thunderstorm and a flooded ground floor had made it seem no roomier than a fisherman’s cottage.
Byron had been especially uncomfortable because Shelley had brought along not only Mary Godwin, but also her stepsister Claire Clairmont, who by a malign coincidence had been Byron’s last mistress before he fled London, and now seemed to be pregnant by him.
What with the storm clamoring beyond the window glass and the candles fluttering in the erratic drafts, the conversation had turned to ghosts and the supernatural—luckily, for it developed that Claire was easily frightened by such topics, and Byron was able to keep her wide-eyed with alarm, and silent except for an occasional horrified gasp.
Shelley was at least as credulous as Claire, but he was delighted with the stories of vampires and phantoms; and after Byron’s personal physician, a vain young man named Polidori, had told a story about a woman who’d been seen walking around with a plain skull for a head, Shelley had leaned forward and in a low voice told the company the reasons he and his now abandoned wife had fled Scotland four years earlier.
The narration consisted more of hints and atmospheric details than of any actual story, but Shelley’s obvious conviction—his long-fingered hands trembling in the candlelight and his big eyes glittering through the disordered halo of his curly hair—made even the sensible Mary Godwin cast an occasional uneasy glance at the rain-streaked windows.
It seemed that at about the same time that the Shelleys had arrived in Scotland, a young farm maid named Mary Jones had been found hacked to death with what the authorities guessed must have been sheep shears. “The culprit,” Shelley whispered, “was supposed to have been a giant, and the locals called it ‘the King of the Mountains.’ ”
“‘It’?” wailed Claire.
Byron shot Shelley a look of gratitude, for he assumed that Shelley too was frightening Claire in order to keep her off the subject of her pregnancy; but the young man was at the moment entirely unaware of him. Byron realized that Shelley simply enjoyed scaring people.
Byron was still grateful.
“They captured a man,” Shelley went on, “one Thomas Edwards—and blamed the crime on him, and eventually hanged him … but I knew he was only a scapegoat. We—”
Polidori sat back in his chair and, in his usual nervously pugnacious way, quavered, “How did you know?”
Shelley frowned and began talking more rapidly, as if the conversation had suddenly become too personal: “Why, I—I knew through my researches—I’d been very ill the year before, in London, with hallucinations, and terrible pains in my side … uh, so I had lots of time for study. I was investigating electricity, the precession of the equinoxes … and the Old Testament, Genesis …” He shook his head impatiently, and Byron got the impression that, despite the apparent irrationality of the answer, the question had surprised some truth out of him. “At any rate,” Shelley continued, “on the twenty-sixth of February—that was a Friday—I knew to take a pair of loaded pistols to bed with me.”
Polidori opened his mouth to speak again, but Byron stopped him with a curt “Shut up.”
“Yes, Pollydolly,” said Mary, “do wait until the story’s over.”
Polidori sat back, pursing his lips.